26 March 2009

The next step

"The capitalist economy presents itself as a vast accumulation of commodities" - Karl Marx
"Life under capitalism presents itself as a vast accumulation of spectacles" - Guy Debord
"The memetic environment under consumer capitalism presents itself as a vast accumulation of identities" - Doloras LaPicho

Identity-as-commodity is, Chaos Marxism insists, fundamental to explaining the ideological effect of capitalism. Social identities have always been based on participation in a social network. The novelty of late, Fordist/post-Fordist capitalism is that in every other era, identity-networks were based on one's place in relations of physical or memetic production. In the modern era, they are based on consumption. Which is why they proliferate, because they expand along with the dizzying consumer choice offered by the debt-driven monopolistic competition model. There are of course "mass market" identities sold to virtually everyone as race, nation, religion, favourite sports team, and if you're an American, "liberal" or "conservative". And then there are the niche market identities, which most readers of this blog will buy into. The important point is that adopting an identity based on consumption means that - unlike the proletariat of the 19th century - you do have something to lose apart from your chains if capitalism comes to an end, that very thing which (we argue) is fundamental to existence as a human being.

Just a brief note that what seems most ludicrous about the popular culture of the late '80s - late '90s (i.e. the high water mark of consumer capitalism) is the whole "neo-tribal" bullshit. It was the era in which wearing a subcultural uniform really took off - the more outlandish the uniform and the more "unconventional" its choices of entertainment commodities, the better. That is the dark future of total fragmentation predicted by Ken MacLeod in The Star Fraction. To some degree, the collapse of this economy (begun with the dot.com crash, accelerated by the War On Terror in which once again a position for or against the Powers That Be became important, and perhaps finally ending with Depression 2.0) is the collapse of the idea that fulfilment consists of finding the right clique to hang with. Now can someone tell this to the Marxist and anarchist sects? Or the Paultards, for that matter.

An even briefer note that no-one had better be thinking that stripping someone of their identity forcefully, or even challenging it directly, is a good idea. If it doesn't work, you've made an enemy for life, and if it does, they will be rendered useless. Of course, if you run a mind-control cult, the second is precisely what you are hoping for so you can reprogramme them according to your whim. You have to get the goose out of the bottle without breaking the glass - that's Trotsky's transitional method. Proposed political action has to be consistent with currently existing mass identity, while following a logic which leads out of them.

Special note: we have abolished pre-approval for comments, although we reserve the right to delete anything we consider retarded, or not retarded enough.